Tom Cary is co-owner of Groundswell Community Farm with his wife Katie Brandt
After working for 13 years at WMEAC to promote local foods and sustainable farming, I really started getting my hands dirty in 2006 when I helped start a community garden and a small CSA. Then I took over a poultry business while working at a farmstead bakery. When Anna Hoeksra decided to travel the world and find a new home in 2009, I jumped at the chance to become a farmer at Groundswell. The soil at this farm was so much fun to work–I joked that the weeds jumped out of the dirt as easily as the transplants jumped in! I really like the big-picture aspects of farming and knowing that Groundswell veggies support the kind of food system I want to see take root throughout West Michigan.
I come to farm at Groundswell through a circuitous path. Having grown up in Grand Rapids with a passion to be a marine biologist, I found myself graduating from Hope with a BS in chemistry in 1989. From there I worked for a couple years as an environmental chemist to earn money for my next adventure – traveling the world. In June of 1992, a friend and I left for a trip that lasted 18 months and took me to 11 countries in Europe as well as Morocco, Mauritania, and Senegal in Africa. I returned from these exploits and began volunteering then eventually working for 13 years at the West Michigan Environmental Action Council, which I left in October of 2007.
My passion for agriculture grew out of a personal interest in “economics as if people mattered.” That was the foundation for a Masters thesis which created a conceptual model local food system for my neighborhood in Grand Rapids. That work along with others awareness resulted in the formation of the Greater Grand Rapids Food Systems Council, an initiative I helped form and direct for many years at WMEAC. I also worked on numerous education efforts around sustainable agriculture, including the Beginning Farmer Training class through which Katie and Anna decided to start a farm together. Working at Groundswell allows me to bring these ideals to life on the farm.
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Groundswell Community Farm grows over 40 different crops and 200+ varieties, to provide our CSA members and Michigan restaurants with an amazing array of colorful and flavorful veggies.